This is the article to the Body Mind Empowerment Podcast Episode 2 titles How to Escape the Matrix of Your Mind.
The Normal World
Who do you think you are? What’s the essence that creates the person you are?
- Are you a philosophical zombie who’s eyes show that the lights are on but it seems nobody’s home.
- Are you a thinker, who after a prolonged cogito came to the conclusion that therefore I am?
- Or are you an individual enmeshed in a much larger hive mind we call the society that’s shaped and formed your psychology?
That’s something we’re going to be talking in today’s Self-Empowered Podcast episode two – how to find some of the true aspects of your „SELF“ and how to escape the Matrix of your mind.
The Tip of the Iceberg
The human mind is very much a mystery to us. It has been used as a model for the iceberg[i].
The Iceberg Model is a tool for systems way of thinking that’s designed for understanding individual and group behavior.
If you have never seen an iceberg or a picture of it, then imagine a huge block of ice floating at sea with about 10-20% of it on the surface and the remaining 80% of it underneath the water.
- The tip of the iceberg is your conscious self – your thoughts, your actions, your self-awareness
- The sub-surface part of the iceberg is the subconscious mind that comprises your beliefs, your blind spots, your cultural background, values and everything you don’t see right away.
When you look at our individuality, let’s say, from the perspective of this Iceberg, then you’ll discover that
- What we see is what’s happening – events, tangible phenomenon, incidents
- What we don’t see are the patterns of previous behavior, the structures and previous events that have influenced those patterns, and the mental models, the values, beliefs, and ideas that have built those structures.
In order for the iceberg to remain afloat, it needs the majority of its mass to be under water.
The same is with our brain – we need to allocate most of our mental processes to the subconscious mind and autonomic nervous system. Constantly controlling your heartbeat and regulating hormones would be very strenuous and energy-consuming. You don’t think about digesting food or following your habits – you just do them because it’s more efficient.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind is referred to as the part of our brain where most of our unconscious and automatic decisions are made[ii] – the iceberg.
Our subconscious mind is one of our greatest tools but it can be used as a weapon against us.
- It’s a source of creativity, feelings, inspiration, emotions and deep intuitive wisdom that can be very useful in making quick movements, dodging bullets, following your instinct and having lightbulb ideas.
- Simultaneously, it can be a source of hidden detriment in the form of negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, addictions and so many other things that will harm your empowerment.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Titanic but the iceberg can be very dangerous for sinking ships, ruining personal relationships and creating toxic habits that will lead to if not death then disease nonetheless.
Most importantly, because of the way it’s constructed, we more often than not fail to see how it affects us.
That’s why we want to become more conscious in our every day lives – to be aware of what goes on inside us (our thoughts) and be more aware of the things we do (our actions).
The Secret to All Personal Growth
What is the key component to making rapid progress in anything? Whether that be your fitness, knowledge, language learning, relationships or business? How can you get the results you’re after faster?
I’m not going to tell you some secret productivity hack or magic supplement to take. Instead, I want you to focus on what really needs to happen to you as a person.
The fact of the matter is you can’t stay the same – you have to change. The person who would be fit, a millionaire and fluent in some language like Swahili would be different from the person you are right now.
Your physiology, habits, beliefs and most importantly, the neural network of your brain would be different.
But simply making a decision to change isn’t enough
- Going on a diet won’t equal fat loss
- Just being at the gym doesn’t give you muscles
- Starting a business won’t guarantee you money
- Studying a language won’t guarantee you fluency
The rate of your progress depends on how conscious you are when doing all those things.
Deliberate practice means you’re fully attentive with the activity you’re engaged with. You’re seeking to improve and are mindful of the changes you make.
- You have to notice the subtle idiosyncrasies and improvements you’ve made.
- You have to notice that your form in a barbell squat or a handstand has gotten better – that you can maintain more stability.
- You have to notice that you can formulate sentences more fluently and that you’re capable of thinking in that language you’re learning whether that be Latin or Swahili
- You have to notice that you experience less hesitation and procrastination when working or approaching people you haven’t met before
All those subtleties are minute but they’re highly important.
You will get better at anything by going through sheer amounts of zombie-repetitions the same way you can just treadmill yourself to fitness, but the key component to making real long-term growth that would stick is in your consciousness.
Consciously acknowledge the decisions you’ve made, consciously register the improvements you’re experiencing and consciously recognize the person you’ve become. Consciously take the Red Pill.
The Red Pill
The movie The Matrix looks fascinating – it has awesome fight scenes, meaningful plot and cool looking people.
It talks about this regular guy Neo who is a computer hacker. One day he starts receiving messages from an international super vigilante called Morpheus.
After Neo decides to follow the White Rabbit…he meets Trinity who takes him to Morpheus. Morpheus makes Neo an offer he can’t refuse:
You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
What most people fail to realize is that The Matrix and the story of Neo is the story of the individual.
You are The One but you’re in a different stage of the journey than me or Neo.
Taking the Red Pill
The term Red Pill refers to a human who is aware of the true nature of the Matrix.
Taking the Red Pill is about becoming self-empowered and beginning the process towards your greatest self.
It involves extreme ownership over everything in your world, seeing behind your conditioning and becoming meta-aware.
After you’ve taken the Red Pill, you realize that the person you’ve thought yourself to currently be is nothing else but an illusion – a set of sub-egos and representations of your social mirror called the ego.
Your cultural background, parentage, school and all of your life’s events have created the STORY of YOU.
The Secret Thing That’s Holding You Down
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to drastically transform your life and make the changes you need to make? You can feel this immense potential within you but there’s something holding you down.
The biggest source of your angst is your limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and lack of discipline. But those things aren’t necessarily a part of you.
Humans are social creatures – we’ve been living in groups for hundreds and thousands of years. In fact, it’s thought that social co-operation was one of the driving forces of our cognitive rampage and construction of society.
That’s true – our mind is adapted to recognizing subconscious signals from other people. Our interactions are embedded by dozens of facial cues from our peers, cultural messages or symbols, and deeper meaning that are supposed to help us understand each other better.
One-on-one communication wasn’t enough – we created tribes, clans, cities, kingdoms, countries and international allegiances across the world.
The key phenomenon is CULTURE.
What is Culture
There are many definitions for culture but the late 19th-century anthropologist Edward Tylor was one of the first to describe it in print. He said:
“Culture… is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society[iii].”
Culture is a way of living that promotes certain ideas and potentials about what’s right or wrong and how an individual should behave.
Culture surrounds us everywhere – the state, the city architecture, the arts, the military, the school. It can be found in companies, social media, online video games, forums, and even your own family traditions.
- Culture is the blueprint of thinking and behaving where you the individual are its canvas.
- Culture determines your values, your beliefs, what you think is correct and how you should behave.
How Culture Affects You
When it comes to your lifestyle habits and mindset, then culture plays a huge role.
Your circle of friends has a massive impact on who you become as a person. Not because you lack congruence or personal uniqueness, but because you as an individual are constantly trying to fit into your social group.
You’re subconsciously trying to maintain good relations with the people you live with because back in the savannah it was detrimental to survival. If you’d been left alone or kicked out of the tribe, you would’ve most likely died.
So, you’re constantly evaluating your position – your social status – inside your group and are trying to either become more high status or to protect your current position there.
Good Friends Bad Friends
What you eat, what you wear, what music you’re listening to is all predicated by culture, whether that be your ethnic culture or the culture of your friends.
They say that you’re the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with – which is quite true but, yet again, not because you lack congruence but because you’re trying to fit in with your peers.
You’ve probably been in a situation where you’re trying to improve yourself – you start working out, eating right, reading, meditating, doing all these self-empowering activities – you’re gaining momentum.
But one of your friends goes like “Whaaat? Are you reading these self-help books? What are you trying to do? Trying to get better? Better than me?!?! Are you saying that you becoming better means that I have to improve myself? Are you trying to go against the culture of OUR circle of friends?”
And you stop…
You revert back to your old habits because you becoming better would put you into the danger of becoming ostracized from your group.
Crab Mentality Culture
The same can be seen in crabs as well…
When you catch some crabs and put them in a bucket, then they’re all jammed up together – they’re all in huge trouble because most likely they’re going to die.
Of course, every crab will start to fight for its own survival – they begin to climb out and reach for the light.
- Individually, every crab could easily escape the bucket – they have claws and they can just pull themselves out of there.
- Collectively, they’re all doomed – because once some crab starts getting to the top the other crabs pull it down
This is the crab mentality[iv], which in the context of your friends and peers, I’m going to change over to The Crab Culture.
In human behavior, the same analogy applies – when someone member starts succeeding – when they’re starting to become more high status – then the others will try to bring them down by giving hateful comments, talking behind their backs, saying „you’ve changed“ and ridiculing them in front of the group.
In animals, if you endanger the alpha male’s position in the group, they will even go as far as kill you. It’s a constant battle of status.
Your Genetic Culture
Your genes affect the composition of your culture as well. Certain genes develop certain traits in individuals, which then transitions over to society as a whole.
- Traditional cuisine like sauerkraut, rice, drinking raw cow’s milk or not eating pork has all been predicated by living in certain environments where you needed to eat in a certain way in order to survive, thus you’ve developed certain taste preferences and metabolic profiles and eating traditions
- The people you’re attracted to are influenced by your genes – to be more liking towards those individuals who would benefit your already existing genetic makeup
Like Richard Dawkins said in The Selfish Gene. Us humans are nothing else but vessels for carrying on our genes throughout the generations [v].
But he also introduced the idea of a cultural gene or a ‘MEME’.
A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols, practices or beliefs that can be transitioned over from one mind to another mind through a range of cultural mediums, such as writing, speech, rituals, traditions, teachings, or the media.
Like with biological genes, cultural memes replicate themselves and there’s a constant process of natural selection happening there.
How to Not Get Stuck in Between Culture
Truth is – you as a person are a product of your environment – your body and mind mold themselves according to the conditioning they receive.
Unfortunately, that conditioning isn’t always of your conscious choice, but more often than not it comes from culture that you follow unconsciously. You’ve adopted certain beliefs and ideas into your iceberg and have sunk it deep underneath the surface. This is the Matrix of Society.
The vast majority of people in the world are passive products of their culture.
- They have the same religious beliefs as their parents
- They have the same political views as their parents
- They get married to the first person they date with
- They stay with the same friends ever since birth
- They’re stuck inside the Matrix without even knowing what it is
I’m not saying there’s anything particularly bad about it. Culture can be a great thing and traditions are a huge part of personal identity.
But what we must never become dogmatic about any ideologies, ways of doing things or holding onto past values.
The world is changing and so does culture. You have to evolve and so does your culture.
Steve Jobs has an amazing quote for this, about how to leave a dent in the Universe:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
Getting Out of the Matrix
Taking the Red Pill means that you realize the person you’ve been living currently as is a social construct.
It’s been created because of your conditioning – how your parents have taught you, how they had been taught by their culture, what your teacher told you about your personality, what kind of relationships you’ve had with your friends and what kind of interpretations you’ve made about who you are, based on those interactions.
And getting out of the Matrix involves you realizing that you can be anyone, you can be whatever you like and you can accomplish anything – you are The One.
In the movie, Neo didn’t really believe in his abilities until he went through massive revelations and challenges.
If you haven’t seen the movie, then cover your eyes and ears because I’m going to give a spoiler.
Neo gets shot by Agent Smith – he dies but because he loves Trinity and because he has the rest of humanity to rescue, he gets resurrected. He has a greater purpose to fulfill that’s beyond his ego.
It’s an Apotheosis – a metaphorical death and resurrection, in which the old version of him dies and he gets reborn into the more powerful version of himself.
Neo realizes that he indeed is the ONE – that he has the power to change, to transform and become seemingly omnipotent.
It was just a shift in mindset and belief – a small reprogramming of the mind that can happen to anyone. Let me tell you how to actually make it so.
How to Upgrade Your Mental Operating System
Our brain is just a massive database that brings together our embodied experience in the world.
The mind is a unique piece of software that functions like our operating system on a computer.
- It gives us certain frameworks in the form of beliefs.
- It determines our user experience through our perceptions and attitude.
- It influences our physical being with its psychological condition.
And it directs our behavior towards our systems of goals. We’re more akin to doing the things that give us pleasure and avoid those that don’t satisfy us.
Unfortunately, human beings have an age-old mental software dating back to thousands of years.
Old Brain, New Problems
If you haven’t heard about it already, then the Triune Brain Model divides our brain into 3 main regions or compartments, let’s say.
- The basal ganglia, also called the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of our brain. It governs balance, territoriality, mating, feeding and other instinctual activities.
- Then we have the center part that comprises the „limbic system“, which consists of the septum, amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampal complex, and cingulate cortex. This the mammalian or monkey brain – the brain of emotions and social hierarchies.
- Finally, at the front, there’s the human brain, the cerebral cortex. This is where rational thinking is, especially in the pre-frontal cortex. It’s the most recent step in the evolution of the mammalian brain and gives the ability for language, abstraction, planning, and perception.
Our mind is suited best for living in an environment where food is scarce and danger lurks around every corner.
- The reptilian complex influences your taste preferences and the desire to protect yourself
- The monkey mind is where you store memories, it’s the one that keeps making you get distracted and procrastinate
With the advancement of civilization and technology, we’re experiencing a massive evolutionary time lag. We’re like monkeys in a spaceship. Oh shit…we actually are…WTF are you guys doing?!
Swap Out Your Mental Software
But like with most computers, the software can be replaced and upgraded to a much more suitable one.
We can change our beliefs, shift our paradigms, set different goals and redirect our focus.
How do you change your mental operating system? — By upgrading your mind and enhancing your mindset.
First, you have to look at your old software.
- What beliefs do you hold?
- What values do you have?
- What do you focus the most in life?
- What goals do you have?
Secondly, you make a decision to swap out those old apps or memes and download new ones or upgrade them to 2.0.
The Power of a Decision
If you make a decision that’s powerful enough or gives you big enough of a reason to change, you’ll have a much greater chance of actually changing.
It’s always a question of WHY.
Why are you doing it? Which one do you feel more attracted towards – your current mental operating system or the one you want to upgrade to. Neither is particularly right or wrong, it’s just that like Nietzsche said:
“With a big enough of a why any how becomes possible.”
One thing to keep in mind here is that when I’m talking about upgrading your mental software, then I mean overcoming your limiting beliefs, shifting your paradigms, looking at your cognitive biases, challenging your own behavior and the intentions behind your actions.
It’s about creating an extraordinary mind that’s seeking a meta-perspective and is able to detach itself from its own narrow perception.
How to Change Your Beliefs
Let’s start off with the foundational building blocks we perceive the world with – our beliefs and values.
Every decision we make is determined by what we believe and what we hold dear. Our beliefs determine what we think is possible, how we think the world works and what outcomes we hope our actions will give us.
- If you believe that money is the root cause of all evil, then you will unconsciously self-sabotage yourself to earn less and judge rich people. You will start to procrastinate when starting your own business or you will revert back to your crab friends at work when trying to get a promotion or a raise.
- If you believe that no matter what you do you’ll never get fit and lose fat, you’ll reinforce your own bias towards not exercising as hard and deliberately eating more food than you should. Or less, if you’re trying to gain weight. You’ll finish your lifting sets sooner than your muscles could handle, and you’ll treat yourself with an extra scoop of ice cream, because why not, you don’t believe that you could achieve your goal anyway…
Our beliefs and values are interdependent – we believe in what we hold to be dear, and we value what we believe to be true.
I’ll repeat that – Our beliefs and values are interdependent – we believe in what we hold to be dear, and we value what we believe to be true.
What Creates Beliefs
Beliefs get created through our perceived understanding about ourselves and how do we think the world works.
We can either gain knowledge from the minds of other people – our parents, our friends, our culture – or our own reference experience – actually pushing ourselves at the gym and making gains or starting to earn some cash from our business.
And the medium for communicating that knowledge is LANGUAGE.
Language is thought to be uniquely human and it’s the most powerful faculty of social co-operation. What’s more, language directly influences the way we perceive the physical world.
Did you know that the Eskimo have 50 words for snow? I thought it was just white, but nooooo… appareantly it has many different shadings of grey and meanings in different context.
The Eskimo literally see different things in the world because the language of their culture has transformed the way they perceive the snow.
Language of Belief
What it means is that you have to change your language – the words you use to describe yourself, the phrases you hear in your mind and the stories you tell yourself.
We tell stories. We tell stories that would re-enforce our beliefs, habits, and traits.
Your mind doesn’t want to go into conflict with itself – it wants to fit into a paradigm that’s familiar to you and others around you.
Even if it’s not safe and causes suffering, you want to stay the same because that’s what you can be certain of. “If everything else turns to shit, I’ll at least have my bad habits, limiting self-talk and fears.”
Changing yourself begins with changing the story you tell yourself about who you think you are, how other people see you, what is possible and supposed to happen.
You have to own your thoughts, actions, emotions, beliefs, fears, intentions, habits, responsibilities, mistakes, flaws – everything.
How to Change Your Brain
The second component to upgrading your mental operating system is more physical with some real tangible potential.
I’m going to throw another concept at you – NEUROPLASTICITY
Neuroplasticity basically refers to your brain’s ability to change and restructure its neural networks.
The most commonly used phrase to describe it is the Hebb’s Rule named after Donald Hebb:
Neurons that fire together, wire together. Neurons that fail to link, fire out of sync.
What it will tell you is that you can re-structure your brain and change its faculties any way you like.
FOCUS, procrastination, working hard, laziness, love, positive thinking, discipline and every other mental activity is a pattern – a neural pattern of thinking and acting in response to that.
You lack concentration, willpower, compassion or commitment because you’ve wired your brain to walk certain pathways.
You Are Your Neural Patterns
Neuroplasticity is a dynamic process that happens constantly with each decision, meaning:
- Every time you check your Facebook messages while trying to study, you’re re-enforcing the habit to keep doing it.
- Every time you give in to temptation and eat the marshmallow, you’re teaching yourself that it’s okay to break.
- Every time you push yourself hard in the gym, you’re developing stronger willpower and tolerance for discomfort.
- Every time you focus your entire attention on one single activity at a time, you’re making your honing your concentration and dedication.
How to Replace Your Neural Networks
Let’s take an example – overcoming laziness and building work ethic.
You have to rewire your brain.
Start replacing the habit of laziness and procrastination by mindfully, consciously, attempting to improve it. It feels uncomfortable because you’re literally ripping apart your neural patterns.
Another issue is that habits are hard to break.
The KEY is becoming more mindful and aware in general – to actually notice yourself during the day and not being on autopilot all the time.
By default, you think that you are just the way you are and that’s it. But in reality, your personality is just a reflection of your environment and life events.
Understanding this – that your characteristics and qualities are not set in stone – and accepting that they’re like programs running in your head, allows you to detach yourself from them.
Rewrite Your Beliefs and Stories
To rewrite your stories, you have to look at them from a meta-perspective, like a real writer. It requires you to distance yourself from the text and make your adjustments to it.
So, how do you do it?
- It starts with making a decision – taking full responsibility for your actions and deciding to commit to change. I mean, if you want it bad enough then you would do it anyway.
- Identify the programs you want to or need to change.
- Become conscious of you exhibiting them.
- Then you implement change – You start doing the activities that allow you to become the person you want to be. If you want to be lazy, then be lazy. If you want to be a hard worker, then work hard.
- Recognize your habit loop. – What is triggering you into your old behavior? When do you start doubting yourself or procrastinating?
- Implement the new pieces into the story. – Really write out what changes do you want to make in your personality, your habits or your conditioning. This puts it out there on the paper – a real thing that’s not just inside your head.
- Consistency is crucial – The more often you do something, the more it gets engraved into your brain. Repeated actions will lead to the same repeated outcomes. You have to keep going through that same positive story you want to tell yourself over and over again.
- Be mindful of change – A great tip is to actually notice yourself making improvements and breaking bad habits. Every time you manage to work without getting distracted, without grabbing for junk food or when you have a breakthrough – congratulate yourself and keep going.
Realize that it’s a matter of choices all around – what activities you choose to do on a daily basis, how you choose to structure your neural networks, who are the people you choose to surround yourself with and who you choose to become as a result of that.
Your stories make up who you are, but they’re not predetermined. They’re based on past experiences and your perceptions of your life events.
But you’re the author who can take full responsibility for the things that have happened to you and choose to become something different.
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[i] The Iceberg Model by M. Goodman, 2002. Hopkinton, MA: Innovation Associates Organizational Learning. Copyright 2002 by M. Goodman.
[iii] Tylor, Edward. 1871. Primitive Culture: Research into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art, and Custum. London: John Murray. Volume 1, page 1
[iv] Massie Santos Ballon (May 14, 2010). “Crab Mentality”. Philippine Daily Inquirer.